Russian police arrested Alexei Navalny, 44, at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on Sunday shortly after his flight from Berlin, Germany landed. The activist, who is widely regarded as the most prominent, and determined critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was returning home for the first time after his poisoning last summer.
The U.S. and several European governments have expressed deep concern about Navalny’s arrest, calling for his immediate release from Russian detention.
Navalny’s arrest is the latest attempt by Russian authorities to silence the activist
Last summer, Navalny narrowly escaped death. He was poisoned by a Novichok nerve agent on August 20, and he has been recuperating in Germany. The opposition politician believes Putin ordered the poisoning to go ahead, an allegation that has been refuted by Putin’s government.
In response to Navalny’s arrest, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet on Monday that he was “deeply troubled.”
“Confident political leaders do not fear competing voices, nor commit violence against or wrongfully detain political opponents,” Pompeo said in the tweet.
Separately, President-elect Joe Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan pushed for Navalny’s immediate release.
“The perpetrators of the outrageous attack on his life must be held accountable. The Kremlin’s attacks on Mr. Navalny are not just a violation of human rights, but an affront to the Russian people who want their voices heard,” he added.
Other countries condemn the actions of the Russian authorities towards the activist
In Europe, several world leaders issued statements sharply critical of Navalny’s arrest.
“Aleksei Navalny’s arrest is further evidence that Russian authorities are seeking to silence him,” Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said in a statement on Sunday.
“His detention only highlights the need to investigate his allegations that he was poisoned by state agents acting on orders from the highest levels,” Zviagina added.
The foreign ministries of the U.K., Germany, France and Italy all separately issued statements to rebuke Navalny’s arrest and demand his immediate release.